Top civil servant Chris Wormald admits he never told Education Secretary Michael Gove about abusive behaviour allegations against special adviser

 

Education Editor

The Education Secretary Michael Gove was never told about allegations of abusive behaviour by one of his senior special advisers, the head of his department admitted today.

Chris Wormald, permanent secretary at the Department for Education, said it was decided the allegation was an employment issue and - under long established practice - should be investigated by civil servants.

“The view was taken that there was no need to inform the Secretary of State,” he told members of the Commons education select committee who had recalled Mr Gove to give evidence after he had denied any knowledge of the case at an earlier hearing.

Mr Wormald acknowledged, though, that - as the allegation involved one of Mr Gove's special advisers - he could have come to a different decision but still felt his actions had been correct,

The case in question involved a long-established civil servant who claimed that she had been subjected to bullying behaviour by Dominic Cummings, the senior special adviser, and James Frayne, former head of communications at the department. A greivance procedure attached no blame to the two individuals concerned but - after she put in a complaint  to an industrial tribunal - she was awarded a £25,000 pay-out on the grounds that the department could have handled changes to working practices better.

Mr Gove said the first he had heard about the case was when he was telephoned by a journalist 24 hours before it was reported in the Observer newspaper. “I was rung the day before it appeared in the Observer,” he told MPs.

“My understanding was that matters had been conclude, There had been a pretty extensive investigation into the allegations.”

Mr Gove was also asked by MPs about an article which appeared on the Spectator website from an anonymous senior civil servant at the Department for Education smearing former Children's Minister Tim Loughton as “lazy” and “narcissist”,  This followed criticism of Mr Gove by Mr Loughton at an earlier select committee hearing in which he claimed the department was being run in an “Upstairs, Downstairs” fashion with no communication between ministers on the sixth floor and civil servants working below.

Mr Gove said he had asked his special advisers whether they were the source of the article.  “They assured me they were not,” he said.

Labour MPs said the question had arisen because of the “close relationship” between one of his advisers and the deputy editor of The Spectator.  They are married.

Mr Gove retorted:  “ I have a close relationship with a columnist on the Times (his wife, Sarah Vine), but - under the by-line of their brilliant education editor - articles appear that I don't necessarily agree with.”

Labour MP Ian Mearns also argued that Mr Gove was open to “possible allegations of incuriosity” over what happened to the bullying allegations in view of the fact they involved a senior political adviser to him.

Mr Gove replied:  “I understand in every government department in every year there are a number of grievance procedures that are brought.” Ministers, he argued, should not “micro manage” what were personnel issues.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Education

Recruitment Genius: Senior Textiles / Fashion Technician

£22000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: To contribute to the day-to-da...

Recruitment Genius: Health and Social Care NVQ Assessor

£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: It is also essential that you p...

Recruitment Genius: ICT Infrastructure Manager

£27000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Edinburgh city centre scho...

Recruitment Genius: Plumber

£30000 - £31000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An independent boys' school sit...

Day In a Page

Greece debt crisis: EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

An outbreak of malaria in Greece four years ago helps us understand the crisis, says Robert Fisk
Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas

Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas
How to survive electrical storms: What are the chances of being hit by lightning?

Heavy weather

What are the chances of being hit by lightning?
World Bodypainting Festival 2015: Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'

World Bodypainting Festival 2015

Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'
alt-j: A private jet, a Mercury Prize and Latitude headliners

Don't call us nerds

Craig Mclean meets alt-j - the math-folk act who are flying high
How to find gold: The Californian badlands, digging out crevasses and sifting sludge

How to find gold

Steve Boggan finds himself in the Californian badlands, digging out crevasses and sifting sludge
Singing accents: From Herman's Hermits and David Bowie to Alesha Dixon

Not born in the USA

Lay off Alesha Dixon: songs sound better in US accents, even our national anthem
10 best balsamic vinegars

10 best balsamic vinegars

Drizzle it over salad, enjoy it with ciabatta, marinate vegetables, or use it to add depth to a sauce - this versatile staple is a cook's best friend
Wimbledon 2015: Brief glimpses of the old Venus but Williams sisters' epic wars belong to history

Brief glimpses of the old Venus but Williams sisters' epic wars belong to history

Serena dispatched her elder sister 6-4, 6-3 in eight minutes more than an hour
Greece says 'No': A night of huge celebrations in Athens as voters decisively back Tsipras and his anti-austerity stance in historic referendum

Greece referendum

Greeks say 'No' to austerity and plunge Europe into crisis
Ten years after the 7/7 terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?

7/7 bombings anniversary

Ten years after the terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?
Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has created

Versace haute couture review

Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has ever created
No hope and no jobs, so Gaza's young risk their lives, climb the fence and run for it

No hope and no jobs in Gaza

So the young risk their lives and run for it
Fashion apps: Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers

Fashion apps

Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers
The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy